(FREDERICTON, NB) Mark Simpson (Rothesay, NB) scored in overtime to give the UNB Reds a 2-1 win over the UPEI Panthers, and a 2-0 lead in their best of five Subway Atlantic University Sport semi-final series.
Simpson tipped a Randy Gazzola (Thorold, ON) point shot at 6:17 of the extra frame.
"It was a great shot by Gazz. I got a piece of it and it went five hole, it squeaked through," said Simpson.
In a tight game, the Panthers struck first, just 51 seconds in.
Kameron Kielly (Charlottetown, PE) hit a puck that jumped up and over a sprawling Alex Dubeau (Mascouche, QC) in the UNB net, giving the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
The goal-mouth scramble that preceded the goal saw a total of four quick shots put on Dubeau.
The Reds drew even about three minutes later. At 4:02, Mark Rassell (Calgary, AB) scored his second of the playoffs from the side of the UPEI net.
Despite the opening flurry, the Reds outshot the Panthers 16-8 in the first period.
About six minutes into the second, Dubeau was forced to make a big stop on Nathan Yetman (Cornwall, PE), who had a step on the Reds defenders as he broke down the left side.
Both teams hit posts or crossbars during the second period, but neither scored.
While the Panthers had chances, the Reds dominated most of the third period, but could not find a way to beat UPEI netminder Matthew Mancina (Windsor, ON).
UNB began the overtime with a man advantage, but couldn't connect.
For the most part, the play was concentrated in the UPEI zone, with Simpson's goal coming as a result of bodies in front of the net.
"It's a heart-breaker, obviously, from our perspective," said Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson. "I'm really proud of our group, they laid it all on the line tonight."
Despite the outcome, MacPherson says his team played the way they wanted to play.
"We had a game plan in mind coming over her for these first two games and we're leaving with no wins, but we probably wouldn't change anything other than that."
The Reds outshot the Panthers 47-22.
"They do a good job of blocking shots and their goalie is peaking for them at the right time," said Gazzola, who was named the Subway Player of the Game. "It's the playoffs. Everything tightens up. If we thought it was going to be easy, we'd have been kidding ourselves."
The 2-1 score reflects the closeness of the game.
The Reds, now one win from advancing to the AUS championship series, say Friday's win is big.
"If they get a bounce, it's 1-1 going to their home rink, so it's a huge win for us," said Simpson. "It's great to be up 2-0. They played a great game, they're a big hitting team. It's a big win for us."
The series now shifts to Charlottetown.
The Panthers host Game 3 on Monday, at 7:00pm. Game 4, if necessary, goes Tuesday, at 7:00pm.
"We'll use the two days as wisely as we can and we'll be ready to go on Monday," said MacPherson.
Recap courtesy of Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics
Photo courtesy of Lauren Tidd/for UNB Athletics